Hiking Mollala Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Table Rock Wilderness West Meadows – 6/21/2020

For the final hike of our vacation we were looking for something relatively close to home that we had not done before. While we had visited the Table Rock Wilderness twice before (post) both of the previous hikes started from the Table Rock Trailhead. Two of our guidebooks contained hikes starting at the Old Bridge Trailhead which would allow us to do a predominately new hike in the BLM managed wilderness.

One author (Sullivan) suggested a 6.4 mile loop utilizing the High Ridge and Bull Creek Trails as well as Rooster Rock Road while the other author’s (Reeder) suggested hike was a 10.8 mile out and back to Rooster Rock on the High Ridge Trail. We decided to combine the two and visit the meadow below Rooster Rock and then return via the Bull Creek Trail/Rooster Rock Road route described by Sullivan. We parked at the Old Bridge Trailhead which had it’s pros and cons.
Trailhead sign at the Old Bridge Trailhead.

On the pro side the entire drive to the trailhead is on paved roads. On the con side the trailhead is at a gravel pit used for target shooting and there were a lot of empty shell casings as well as litter in the immediate vicinity.

The first few feet of the trail were nearly hidden by thimblerry bushes but after passing through them the trail was obvious and well maintained.

IMG_7385A second signboard just up the trail from the trailhead.

There was a chance of showers in the forecast that never materialized, but it was foggy and the fog left the vegetation wet which in turn made us increasingly wet as we brushed against the leaves.
IMG_7389Wet leaves around an iris.

One thing that we’ve come to expect from hikes in this wilderness is a good climb and this portion of the High Ridge Trail was no exception. Starting at an elevation just over 1200′ the trail climbed 1800′ in 2.5 miles to a junction with the Image Creek and Bull Creek Trails. The majority of the climb is through a mature forest but at the 2.4 mile mark a small wildflower meadow awaits.





IMG_7448The small wildflower meadow.

We’d timed it fairly well for the flower display but the fog made it a little hard to get the full effect of colors.

IMG_7452Paintbrush, Oregon sunshine, and plectritis

IMG_7461Sub-alpine mariposa lily

IMG_7465Death camas


IMG_7472Blue-eyed Mary

IMG_7478A penstemon

The trail briefly reentered the forest before coming to a second, larger meadow in .1 miles.

IMG_7490Balsamroot at the edge of the meadow.


IMG_7491Larger meadow

This meadow was quite a bit larger with a few additional types of flowers present but it was also disappointingly foggy.


IMG_7493Larkspur amid the paintbrush and Oregon sunshine

IMG_7516Tomcat clover

IMG_7518Possibly a milk-vetch or some sort of vetch.

On the far side of the meadow we arrived at the wide 4-way junction with the Image Creek Trail on the left, the Bull Creek Trail on the right, and the continuation of the High Ridge Trail straight ahead.
IMG_7525Image Creek Trail and the High Ridge Trail.

We stuck to the High Ridge Trail which launched uphill. The trail gained the ridge and leveled out for a bit before another steep climb. There were a few dips along the way as the trail was forced to leave the ridge to drop under rock outcroppings which just increased the amount of climbing needed.
IMG_7535One of the sets of rocks along the way.

IMG_7543In the middle of one of the climbs.

IMG_7552The trail leveling off a bit.

Approximately 2 miles from the junction we came to the first of a series of small meadows, each with a slightly different feel.

IMG_7591Oregon sunshine

IMG_7607Mountain sandwort



Olympic onionOlympic onion

IMG_7635Back in the trees.

20200621_093033Fawn lilies

IMG_7647The next little meadow.

IMG_7656Larkspur and blue-eyed Mary


IMG_7661Trees again.

IMG_7662Another meadow




Just under 3 miles from the junction we arrived at the meadow below Rooster Rock. This was the first part of the hike that was familiar to us having visited Rooster Rock on both our previous trips to the wilderness.


We were just a week or two early for the full false sunflower display but a few of the blossoms had opened and there were plenty of other flowers blooming.






20200621_100025Sub-alpine mariposa lily

We turned left at a “Y” junction with the Saddle Trail and climbed to, wait for it…. a saddle between Rooster Rock and Chicken Rock. With the fog we couldn’t really see either rock formation but we knew they were there. While Rooster Rock is taller there is no trail to it, but there is one up to Chicken Rock and we headed up despite knowing that there would be no views of Mt. Jefferson today. There was a lot of colorful clumps of purple and pink penstemon though.






The rocks were at least a good spot to take a short rest and have a bit to eat. We were occasionally able to make out the shape of Rooster Rock across the saddle as we sat.

Mt. Jefferson to the left and the Three Sister to the right of Rooster RockFor comparison.

After our break we explored a little more of the meadow along the High Ridge Trail looking for any types of flowers that we might have missed earlier.
IMG_7805Sticky cinquefoil

We headed back along the High Ridge Trail to the junction with the Bull Creek Trail. The three miles back to the junction were pretty uneventful except for startling an unexpected hiker who we thought had seen us but hadn’t. He was in the middle of the trail and when he didn’t move we noticed he had ear buds in. I said hi and he about jumped off the trail. He wasn’t expecting to see anyone else on the trail he said. We wished him luck with the view as it was supposed to clear up at some point during the day and continued on our way.

By the time we arrived at the junction the fog had at least lifted so we took a faint user trail out to the edge of the big meadow from the Bull Creek Trail to take another look.




After returning to the trail we noticed a smaller meadow on the opposite side that was bursting with color.

It was mostly plectritis and Oregon sunshine but Heather managed to spot a couple of yellow monkeflowers.
IMG_7842Plectritis and Oregon sunshine

20200621_120104A monkeyflower by some plectritis.

The Bull Creek Trail dropped fairly steeply along an old roadbed to a crossing of a branch of Bull Creek.


In a cruel twist the trail climbed away from this crossing. We had hoped that we were done climbing for the day but not quite. We then dropped to a second branch of the creek.

After a brief smaller climb form this crossing the trail dove downhill in a hurry to the Bull Creek Trailhead along Rooster Rock Road.
IMG_7864Iris along the trail.


It was 1.6 miles from the junction to the trailhead and now we faced a 2.3 mile road walk back to the Old Bridge Trailhead.

As road walks go this one wasn’t too bad. We could hear (and occasionally got a glimpse of) the Molalla River and there was finally some blue sky overhead.

The butterflies were coming out to pollinate the flowers so we watched them as we shuffled along.
IMG_7873I didn’t see the beetle until I was uploading this photo.


We spotted a colorful bird flying back into some trees but couldn’t quite figure out where it had gone of what it was. I took a bunch of pictures of the branches though hoping to at least get an idea of what it was which actually sort of worked. It was a western tanager.
IMG_7890Where’s the western tanager.

The highlight of the road walk came as we neared the trailhead. Several cedar waxwings were in the trees nearby.

Instead of 12.4 miles my GPS showed 13 but that’s to be expected when we wander around exploring things. 🙂 This was a tough hike with nearly 4000′ of elevation gain up some steep climbs but it was a good one. Having already gotten to experience the views from Chicken Rock helped alleviate any disappointment about the foggy conditions and we got to see a very different set of flowers in the meadow on this trip. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Table Rock Wilderness West Meadows

Hiking McKenzie River Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

East Fork and Saddle Trails – 6/6/2020

There haven’t been many times in our 10 years of hiking that we haven’t been able to do the hike (or at least the vast majority of it) that we set out to do that day. Many of the failed attempts came early in our hiking years when we didn’t do as much research on current conditions as we do now, but even with the extra research sometimes things just don’t work out. Our attempt to hike the nearly 6 mile long East Fork Trail in the Willamette National Forest happened to be one of these times.

We had switched to this hike earlier in the week due to a rainy weekend forecast. Our plan was for an out-and-back hike starting at the East Fork Lower Trailhead and turning around at the East Fork Upper Trailhead.

The large parking area (with restrooms) for the lower trailhead is located at the NE end of Cougar Reservoir where the East Fork South Fork McKenzie River flows into it.


We set off on the East Fork Trail without looking closely at the signboard where it was clearly posted that the first of two footbridge leading across the river was out.

This bridge was only three tenths of a mile from the trailhead so it didn’t take long for us to discover it missing.

Fording the river was an option, it looked like it would have been an easier ford than the Indian Creek ford we had done on our first day backpacking the Middle Fork Willamette River (post). With that being said neither of us were keen on soaking our feet this early in the hike and knowing that the plan had been to go to the upper trailhead and back we simply decided to go back to the car, drive up to the upper trailhead, and hike down from there to the other side of the river and back which would allow us to cover the whole trail sans the missing bridge.

We were familiar with the upper trailhead having parked there in 2018 when we hiked to Horsepasture Mountain using the Saddle Trail (post). While the Saddle Trail headed uphill on the north side of FR 1993 near a small pullout, the East Fork Trail headed downhill on the south side.

Anemones and bunch berries were blooming near the trailhead.


This time we noticed the caution posted on the trailhead signpost.

The trail quickly entered the Three Sisters Wilderness.

For first .6 miles from the trailhead the East Fork Trail made its way downhill through a green forest before reaching the East Fork South Fork McKenzie River.

IMG_5132Vanilla leaf

IMG_5138False solomonseal

IMG_5142Star-flowered solomonseal




IMG_5154We saw a lot of this type of mushroom.


IMG_5165East Fork South Fork McKenzie River

Once we arrived at the river the trail turned west following it downhill toward the reservoir. As is the case for most river trails we were sometimes a ways above it and at other times right along it.







There were a number of woodland flowers in bloom and lots of slugs to watch out for.
IMG_5169Vanilla leaf, valerian, and a slug.

IMG_5174Oregon grape




IMG_5234Sour grass

IMG_5271Queen’s cup

IMG_5222Fern unfolding



IMG_5261Maidenhair ferns

IMG_5209We also watched out for the nasty Devil’s Club and its thorns.

The trail didn’t appear to see much use and was increasingly overgrown and also suffered from a fair amount of blowdown.




We made it approximately 3 miles before the blowdown got us. A large tree was down across the trail as it traversed along a hillside above the river. The tree was far to big to simply step over and there were no limbs or other footholds to assist in getting over. To make matters worse the trail on the opposite side of the tree was washing out a bit. That made it look like it might be difficult to get safely off of the tree if we were able to get over it without sliding down the trunk (they can be surprisingly slippery). We could also see other trees down just a little further up the trail.

Our options were to scramble up and around the root ball that was a good 30 to 40 yards uphill or turn back. The fact that the trail had been getting more and more “wild” didn’t give us any confidence that the going would get any easier, especially considering that if we made it to the upper footbridge the forest on the south side of the river burned in a low intensity fire in 2018. We decided that the smart thing to do was to turn back here so we did.

On the way back we had a bit of excitement when we heard a ruckus off to our left. When we looked over we saw something brown charging down at us through the brush. It stopped several feet away for us which allowed us to identify it as a grouse. She was all ruffled up and yelling at us. We could hear other grouse still uphill so we guessed this was a mother protecting her young. After getting our attention she flew onto the trail then ran ahead in an attempt to lead us away from what we assumed were her young.
IMG_5272The grouse is the blurry brown thing ahead and to the left of the trail.

She led us for a quite a bit before she was apparently comfortable with the distance and she disappeared into the forest. As we continued we discussed our options for the rest of the day. We decided that as long as the weather held out that we would set a turnaround time and hike up the Saddle Trail a bit since it was right there where we’d parked.
IMG_5279Start of the Saddle Trail at FR 1993

We gave ourselves an hour as we began climbing this steep trail (1400′ elevatin gain over 2 miles). We were excited when we spotted some blooming beargrass and paintbrush.



IMG_5295A penstemon starting to bloom

IMG_5296A line of paintbrush


There were a number of other flowers blooming along the trail.


20200606_114636Pacific coralroot

IMG_5313Northern phlox

IMG_5315Pinesap (I think)

IMG_5325Oregon grape


IMG_5329Yellowleaf iris

IMG_5333Sticky cinquefoil

IMG_5338Spotted coralroot

IMG_5449Nightblooming false bindweed

IMG_5453Largeleaf sandwort

We had made it about 1.5 miles up the trail when our hour was almost up. We were at a switchback which the trail launched steeply up from and Heather decided she was going to call it there. I decided that we were close enough to the end of the trail that I wanted to continue up to the junction with the Olallie Trail so Heather started back down while I continued uphill. Two tenths of a mile where we parted ways I came to a rocky viewpoint off a switchback. The view was not nearly as clear as it had been on our July 2018 visit, but there were flowers present this time that had not been then.

IMG_5351Subalpine mariposa lily



IMG_5360Rosy pussytoes

I almost called it at the viewpoint but then remembered that there was a meadow just before the end of the Saddle Trail so I continued uphill hoping that there would be a decent wildflower display. I was not disappointed as there were quite a few flowers in bloom including large swaths of blue-eyed mary.





IMG_5387Blue-eyed Mary

IMG_5391Woodland star



IMG_5439Royal Jacob’s ladder

IMG_5433Something in the pea family.

IMG_5437Alpine pennycress

IMG_5445Junco amid the flowers.

IMG_5435Bear scat in the meadow.

The trail left the meadow then quickly arrived at a saddle and the Olallie Trail.

Other flowers bloomed near the junction.
IMG_5430Tall bluebells


IMG_5431Wild ginger

IMG_5418Bleeding heart and tall bluebells.

IMG_5420The Olallie Trail

After tagging the junction I headed back down. About halfway down I ran into Heather heading back up, she had been going up and down between switchbacks in an attempt to stay warm as the rainy weather that had been forecast had finally arrived along with a chilling breeze. Even though the day hadn’t gone a planned we managed to get in a little over 11 miles of hiking and enjoyed some nice sights and surprisingly pleasant weather (for the most part). As an added bonus we saw exactly zero other people on the trails which has become a rare occurrence. Happy Trails!

Flickr: East Fork and Saddle Trails

Hiking McKenzie River Old Cascades Oregon Trip report

Horsepasture Mountain

After our last two hikes coming from Matt Reeder’s 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region we went back to work on our goal of completing all of the featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes guidebooks. We are just over 75% through his 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades 4th edition and had our eyes set on checking off one more with a visit to the former lookout site atop Horsepasture Mountain.

The hike up Horsepasture Mountain provided a bit of a logistical challenge for a couple of reasons. First is our self imposed guideline of trying not to spend more time in the car than we do on the trail and the 1.4 mile length of the Horsepasture Mountain Trail meant we’d need to come up with some additional trail time. The second issue was the continued closure of a section of Forest Road 1993 which adds nearly 45 minutes to the drive to the Horsepasture Trailhead. Prior to the closure the drive to that trailhead would still have been over two and a half hours but with the detour Google put the time at three hours and fifteen minutes. We also have a rule against driving over three hours to any trailheads for day hikes so I began looking for alternatives. A little online research led me to a solution, the Saddle Trail which is part of the O’Leary Trail Complex.

The trail begins at the East Fork Upper Trailhead which brought the drive time from Salem under two and half hours. We parked at a small pullout on the right side of FR 1993 across from the signed Saddle Trail.

There was a caution sign on the post regarding a burn area but that was referencing portions of the O’Leary Trail Complex burned in 2017 which did not include either the Saddle Trail or the Horsepasture Mountain Trail. We were facing a nearly 1700′ climb over the next two miles to a junction at Horsepasture Saddle. Luckily the trail was well graded and in good shape as it switchbacked up through a green forest.



Wildflowers in the forest included a few washington lilies, penstemon, northern phlox and tiger lilies along with the typical group of white flowers.




As far as markers went on this trail it did cross closed Forest Road 590 after .4 miles and passed a single rocky viewpoint near the 1.75 mile mark.



Near its end the Saddle Trail passed through a small meadow with a few remaining wildflowers.




The trail ended at a signed three way junction with the Olallie Trail.

Here we turned right passing through thimbleberry bushes for a little over 100 yards to a four-way junction.





We turned onto the Horsepasture Mountain Trail which climbed gradually at first.


Flowers here included lupine, lousewort, wallflower, valerian, and fleabane.





After nearly three quarters of a mile of gradual climbing the trail steepened as it climbed through meadows with beargrass. It wasn’t quite the beargrass display we had been hoping for but there were some nice blooms along the way.



Other flowers in these meadows included coneflower, owls clover, and cat’s ear lilies.



After 1.2 miles the Horsepasture Mountain Trail began to climb the mountain’s south side through a drier wildflower meadow.

The Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor were visible to the east as was snowy Diamond Peak to the south.
IMG_8304Middle Sister

IMG_8323Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor

IMG_8326Diamond Peak

There was a nice variety of wildflowers on display.



A large cairn and remains of the old lookout marked the summit.


The view from the summit included Cascade peaks from Mt. Hood to the barely visible tip of Mt. Thielsen.
IMG_8337Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and Mt. Washington.

IMG_8381The Three Sisters (with the top of Broken Top over South Sister’s southern shoulder) and Mt. Bachelor.

IMG_8345Diamond Peak(Mt. Thielsen is out there too)

IMG_8385Cowhorn Mountain on the left and the tip of Mt. Thielsen to the right.

We took a nice long break at the summit enjoying the views and the flowers. Birds and insects were our only company.








The only negative was seeing the fire scars left in the Three Sisters Wilderness from the awful 2017 fire season. We returned the way we’d come passing two other sets of hikers making their way up the Horsepasture Mountain Trail. We also ran into a family of grouse. A single chick flew across the trail then mama landed in the trail.

Her display of feathers and her posturing let us know that she had other chicks in the area so we stopped and waited until two more flew across the trail.

She then flew up into a tree to let us pass. The remainder of the hike was uneventful as we descended the Saddle Trail back to the trailhead. The seven mile hike and extended stay on the summit kept us within our driving to hiking time ratio but more importantly the hike had been really nice. Good views and wildflowers combined with solitude made for another great day in the Willamette National Forest. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Horsepasture Mountain